A 4-bedroom, 4-bath clean home is a very expensive property to rent in Haiti, and part of my trip cost went towards the monthly $1,000 rent. According to the translators and missionaries, the rent was really very steep; however, it could not be helped for two reasons. First, it was a foreign-owned home. Secondly, you pay more for securing a stable rental owned by people without mafia connections.
Some tips for securing your own lodging in Haiti:
· Plan your stay way ahead of time. I have not seen any hotels or motels around town, as most seem to sit in the outer areas closer to the beaches.
· When we were away from the city, near the private beach residences, there was an Obama Hotel (sorry readers, I do not have a photo of this because I was too slow with my camera) and La Foi Divine Hotel (aha, I wasnít that slow on this one, so check out the photo above); however, itís not like the resorts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was just a simple building.
Dining in Haiti:
Most visitors are skeptical about food consumption in Haiti, but I found that most fruits, vegetables, rice, and packaged baked goods tend to be safe as long as you are eating them fresh. Markets are the easiest places to obtain food, but for travelers who only trust grocery stores, there is a Bel Monte (a grocery chain found on other Caribbean Islands) near the UN. Beware of the Bel Monte, though, as food prices tend to be three times the cost you'd pay on the street.
For fine dining, I have noticed only one restaurant geared towards visitors: the Sugar Cane History Museum and Restaurant. The translators stated that this was the place where all events with foreigners would take place, so we decided to stop by for drinks and desserts. Although the small indoor museum was closed, the rest of the place was outdoors with a lawn tent, al fresco tables; and lots of large sugar cane machinery for ambience. Here it is easy to act touristy and relax a bit. Just don't be misled; their $6 "fresh" fruit juices are from cans and an ice cream sundae with three small scoops of ice cream cost about $8.
Some tips for dining on your own in Haiti:
· For about 15 Haitian Goudes (about 38 US cents), you can get about 5-7 pieces of bread (comparable to the looks and sizes of Cosiís flat bread).
· Do not drink the sink water since itís not safe like the US. Buy bottled water and when you buy them, make sure the seal has not be broken. You can try to buy the packaged water people sell on the streets; I think they were about 5 Goudes (about 13 cents) for about a cup of water in a plastic bagging.
· More than half the customers at Bel Monte were UN soldiers. As a result, the cashier speaks a little English.
· Try Haitian mangos! They're amazing and only in season three times a year.
· The Sugar Can History Museum and Restaurant, though one of the only tourist-friendly restaurants, isn't great. Only about half of the drinks on the menu were available and you'll be waiting an inexplicable amount of time for juice and ice cream.
Tomorrow, in Part 3 of this series, Soo Ah will share the state of transportation and if the beaches are still worth visiting. Don't forget to read Part 1!
[Photos: Soo Ah M. Lee]